Brand mentions and backlinks from relevant and reputable publications make it easier to build an audience by increasing your reach, improving your credibility, and brand perception.
As part of your link prospecting strategy, it's easy to aim high by reaching out to large publications and journalists to feature you or your content, which doesn’t always work.
Large publications bring in lots of traffic that might not be qualified to be a part of your audience. On the other hand, industry specific publications might not bring a ton of traffic every time you’re featured. But you’re always guaranteed that the traffic you get is qualified to be a part of your audience.
To get the links and media mentions you need to grow your rankings, you’ll have to be realistic by starting small and lowering your expectations as to where you want to be featured.
That's where HARO comes in to help you narrow down your efforts by paying attention to relevant publications that will help you improve your link building efforts.
However, HARO is only effective if you know how to use it well and when to take advantage of the different features it offers.
In this post, we’ll define HARO, talk about how it works, and show you how to get more out of the service to help you earn more backlinks and media mentions and improve your link building efforts.
HARO, an acronym for (Help A Reporter Out) is a service that connects journalists and sources.
To create comprehensive content, journalists prepare questions about the topic they are writing about and then they use HARO to send queries to sources who have signed up to provide answers to these questions.
The service is not only limited to journalists. Content quality standards have also grown over time. To stand out, content creators working with different brands also use HARO to help them create comprehensive content that includes insights from subject matter experts.
In exchange for the answers sources provide, the journalist or content creator may provide a backlink to the source’s site. However, this isn’t a guarantee as some editors might remove the links before publishing.
Journalists submit a query and if you’ve signed up as a source on the topic relevant to the query, you’ll get an email notification allowing you to respond.
Once you submit your pitch, the journalist may respond with follow-up questions or schedule a phone interview. Journalists pick the most relevant pitches to use in their story and include a backlink to the site of the source.
However, there’s no guarantee that you will get a backlink. Editorial processes and guidelines vary. If a publication doesn’t allow external links, but only internal links, you won’t get one. Other times, publications are selective as to who gets a do follow and a no follow link.
That shouldn't worry you though. Google is now using link attributes such as no follow in deciding how to rank content on the search engine.
To get started, create an account and set up your profile. You can either sign up as a journalist or as a source. Click on the top right “Sign Up’’ button and enter your details.
The queries you receive come from a human being and your pitch should give the impression that it is coming from a human being too.
Once you sign up, you’ll receive a confirmation email and once you click on it this is what you’ll get:
Click on “Update and add your account details’’ to set up your profile either as a source or a reporter. The most important part in this step is setting your preferences.
As a source, pick the topics you’re qualified to talk about and have real life experience in. The topics with the blue info button, according to HARO, haven't gotten enough queries yet.
However, HARO will occasionally send them out to you once they hit the required number of queries.
HARO sends out emails with queries every business day (Mon-Fri), three times a day, in the morning at 5:35 a.m., at noon 12:35 p.m. and just before the end of the work day at 5:35 p.m. EST.
If you’re not in the EST zone, you will receive these queries at a different time of the day, and we’ll talk about how to make sure you get more out of HARO no matter your timezone.
Once you receive the query from a journalist, you’re supposed to respond and send it back to them.
Given that the query receives responses from different sources, it's up to the journalist to choose the most relevant responses and use them in their story.
The journalist might request for more insight into the quote you provided, schedule a call or more back and forth emails to make sure they have all the details they need to write their story.
For every query, especially in popular niches, there is a huge number of pitches from sources, and that means more work for the journalist to sort through and pick relevant pitches.
Given that a recent study reveals that only 35% of all HARO pitches get published on the target sites, here’s how to stand out:
When responding, you want to make sure that you increase your chances of having your pitch included in the journalist's story.
If the query comes with more than one question, respond to each question without cherry picking what to respond to and what to ignore. It makes your pitch easier to pick out from a bunch of poorly done pitches. Publishers sourcing from HARO are always looking for unique, personalized answers that have been written to provide value.
Include your details in the query such as your company name, a short bio, your name, your site’s URL and your headshot.
This makes it easier for the reporter to check you out online to learn more about you. Also, in case they want to reach out for more information, an easy way to do that is by using the details you provided without having to spend more time looking for your contact information.
Journalists, content creators, and reporters are always on a deadline, with most of them working on several stories at a time. The longer you take to respond to HARO queries, you’re less likely to have your pitch reviewed, let alone having the journalist use it.
If you’re not in the EST zone, set aside a particular time of your workday to review the queries you receive and respond.
If you’re responding to several queries at the same time, make your work easier by using a writing assistant to help you respond to more queries in less time.
Journalists are often looking to quote you directly in their story, and for that reason, you want to get direct to the point as soon as possible. This way, they don’t have to edit your pitch to make it fit into their story. Ideally you should provide substantive details in your response while limiting your pitch to 150-200 words.
HARO comes with different pricing plans: Free, Standard, Advanced and Premium. If you’re just getting started with the service, use the free plan. The paid plans come with a variety of features, such as better support, priority when receiving queries, more than a single profile, and more.
All these matter when you’re looking to scale your link building activities using HARO, such as adding more team members to the service, hiring a VA to edit and submit your responses to queries.
You can also have 2-3 team members signing up as sources for HARO to respond to more queries and increase the chance of being featured in different publications. Use templates to help you maintain the quality and consistency of your pitches.
Whichever the plan you choose when scaling up, what matters most is the quality of your responses. Once you’ve nailed that, you can always level up as you wish and include more team members to help you scale your responses.
The higher you rank, the easier it is for searchers to perceive you as a trustworthy source of information, and, over time, it is easier for them to convert. However, getting there can be a challenge.
Building high quality links isn’t easy and there’s no right way to do it (so long as you’re not violating guidelines provided by search engines).
What matters is building high quality links at scale without spending a ton of money doing it. And when you use HARO as we’ve explained above, getting media mentions on relevant industry publications won’t be out of reach for you.